One-word titles dominate this month’s notable new GLBT-interest home video releases.
Jeffrey Schwarz’s superb look at film critic and gay rights activist Vito Russo was inexplicably ignored when this year’s Oscar nominations for Best Documentary were announced. Russo’s life-long fascination with the portrayal of GLBT characters in mainstream Hollywood movies led him to write the acclaimed book The Celluloid Closet, which itself became a movie in 1995. Sadly, he passed away due to AIDS complications in 1990 and didn’t live to see his own mainstream impact today. Many celebs appear in Vito, including Lily Tomlin, Bruce Vilanch, Larry Kramer and Armistead Maupin, and even more appear (notably Judy Garland, whom Russo adored) via archival footage.
Reverend’s Rating: A
Bill Moyers: Beyond Hate
It’s unfortunate that this exposé of hate-motivated violence, originally broadcast on PBS in 1991, is just as timely today as it makes its DVD debut. The eminent journalist traveled across the US and around the world to violence-prone hotspots such as South Central LA, Brooklyn, Jerusalem and South Africa in an effort to understand the root causes of homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, sectarianism and a lot of other nasty “isms.” What Moyers learns from such revered experts as Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Yaclav Havel, former president Jimmy Carter and others interviewed here remains must-see TV. The DVD contains a discussion guide for use in classrooms or other settings.
Reverend’s Rating: A-
This long-overdue sequel to 2002’s gay favorite Yossi & Jagger finds Yossi (once again played by Ohad Knoller), now a successful surgeon, still grieving the tragic death of his lover while they served together in the Israeli army. Forced to take a sabbatical, Yossi goes to a beach resort where he meets a gay soldier on leave/new prospective boyfriend (the stunning Oz Zehavi). The movie’s standout scene, at least emotionally, occurs when Yossi goes to introduce himself as Jagger’s former lover to Jagger’s in-the-dark parents. A reflective, lovely film by Eytan Fox, who similarly wrote and directed the original.
Reverend’s Rating: B+
Gay porn superstar François Sagat is immediately identifiable thanks to his tattooed scalp, among his other noteworthy (ahem) physical attributes. This eye-opening, explicit documentary reveals that Sagat’s “desire to embody hyper-masculinity” was borne from his surprising experience as an effeminate, bullied teen growing up in a small town in Brittany. Due to the film’s brief 40-minute running time, it raises more questions than it answers but is still illuminating. The DVD also features 80 minutes of extras including interviews that help fill in the blanks.
Reverend’s Rating: B-
Talented young director Damon Jamal makes an impressive transition from documentaries to narrative features with this Breakfast Club for the digital age. A budding filmmaker snags the master key to his high school and invites five other students from different academic and social classes as well as ethnic backgrounds to star in his magnum opus. Locked in the school overnight, the students’ secrets (including a basketball star’s sexual orientation) are revealed both on- and off-camera. The movie goes on a little too long, but the amateur cast’s performances are good and you have to love a screenplay that references not only John Hughes’ 1980’s classics but also 70’s uber-producer Robert Evans and Dr. Seuss!
Reverend’s Rating: B-
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.